A five-step relationship-building process must be acknowledged, understood, and navigated for a relationship to conclude in a successful long-term, committed union.
Five Essential Steps to a Long-Term Relationship
The road from first meeting to long-term committed partnership involves five distinct stages of connection: (1) The Transition Relationship; (2) The Recreational Relationship; (3) The Pre-Committed Relationship; (4) The Committed Relationship; and (5) The Marital Relationship. (For more on recreational, pre-committed, and committed relationships, see David Steele’s Conscious Dating (Campbell, CA: RCN Press, 2008).
This page discusses Step 4: The Committed Relationship, the fourth step in the relationship-building process.
It is time for both partners to work together in a committed relationship.
The previously completed recreational and pre-committed stages, respectively, targeted the individual’s chemistry and logical analysis. The committed phase shifts the emphasis to the couple as a team in relationship with one another. The emphasis is no longer on “I” and “Me.” The emphasis now shifts to “Us,” “Our,” and “We.”
A committed relationship is one in which both participants believe the relationship can meet their unique individual needs. Their focus is now on the future, namely how they, as a couple working together, intend to make their relationship work.
The goal and the question that motivates. A committed relationship’s purpose is to learn how to constructively address problems and manage differences that happen in any relationship. “How can we as a couple make this work?” is the driving question that inspires this relationship.
Your and your partner’s roles. Typically, a couple’s partners refer to each other as “my fiancé” and are open about their relationship. The topic of discussion is making plans for their future together.
The characteristics of a committed partnership. The committed stage has a “feel” of tight-knit togetherness. A sense of “we’re all in this together” centered on shared ideals for how each individual envisions spending the rest of their life together. This is the first time the couple, working jointly, is assigned responsibility for the relationship’s development. Until recently, it has been up to the individuals to do the work independently of their spouse. The couple is now collaborating to figure out how WE can make this relationship work.
You and your spouse are both expected to be team players who are willing and able to compromise in order for the relationship to work. It is important to note that at the committed relationship stage, all of the individual needs of both partners have been met in the prior pre-committed stage. As a result, any sacrificing for the sake of the team is in the realm of desires rather than non-negotiable obligations.
A Committed Relationship Through the Backdoor
“Backdoors” are methods for “exit” from a relationship.
The backdoor to a transitional, recreational, or pre-committed relationship is simple, though not easy. They can be concluded with something along the lines of “This isn’t working out for me,” and then you go, ala Paul Simons’ song “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” I realize this is oversimplification of a difficult and very emotive topic. Nonetheless, there is no legal contract to invalidate and merely a somewhat strong social/psychological compact that holds the pair together.
Ending a committed relationship, on the other hand, is more difficult. There are still no legal contracts, but the social/psychological contract is quite strong. Time has been spent making preparations for the future as a pair. Expectations are high and varied. Wedding preparations are frequently underway.
One of my clients broke a multi-year relationship just two weeks before her wedding, causing a schism in her family. Her siblings are still so furious and bitter ten years later that they refuse to have a connection with their sister, who was merely preventing a big mistake by stopping the relationship.